Rabbit (Darryl Bernard), left, has her ears lengthened by Glooscap (Dion Bernard) in a scene from The Legend of the Rabbit. It’s one of six Mi’kmaq stories told in Mi’kmaq Legends. The popular show continues at the Celebration Zone at Peake’s Quay in Charlottetown until Sept. 7.
©GUARDIAN PHOTO BY SALLY COLE
When Darryl Bernard stepped onto the stage to perform in Mi’kmaq Legends for the first time last summer her knees were knocking.
“I had never acted, danced or sung before. And, all the things they were asking me to do seemed like too much,” says the 16-year-old Charlottetown resident.
So when she was asked to play the lead role in the Legend of the Rabbit, she flatly refused.
“I just couldn’t do it,” says Darryl.
Instead she focused her energies on developing her voice and performance skills and playing minor roles in the theatrical production as it toured the Island, giving performances in Georgetown, St. Peters and Lennox Island.
Fast-forward to 2014, Darryl is back on stage in Mi’kmaq Legends this summer.
But this time she’s no shrinking violet.
After performing in front of large audiences, twice daily for the past two months, her comfort level, as well as her enthusiasm, has increased dramatically.
“I love it. I enjoy it,” says the Grade 12 Colonel Gray High School student who is playing a maiden and a little girl as well as a former formidable character.
“As soon as they asked me to be Rabbit, I thought, ‘here is an opportunity to redeem myself and own the role.’ So I said, ‘yes,’” says Darryl, one of seven talented company members in the show, which has been playing in the Canada Pavilion at the Celebration Zone all summer long.
The play is based on six Mi’kmaq legends that were passed down from generation to generation, interwoven with singing and dancing.
Whether it’s the story of Glooscap who, after setting Wind Eagle free, reminds him that he didn’t always have to blow so hard, the story about why rabbits’ ears are so long and twitchy or Scar Face, the Mi’kmaq take on Cinderella and her ugly step-sisters, the show is fun for both the audience and the performers.
Company member Dion Bernard is enjoying the experience.
Being in the show for the past four years has helped him develop self-confidence and public speaking skills.
“Now I am more able to walk into a room and (energize) it with my presence. I can also sing and play the guitar better,” says the 20-year-old Scotchfort resident, best known for his role as Glooscap.
Playing a god-like man is stretching him even further this summer.
“It pushes your passion. You have to be a person that cares for everybody. You’re the type of person who is a cousin to everyone and a father figure,” says Dion, who plans to build on the acting skills he has developed when he studies tourism and travel management at Holland College this fall.
“It’s given me improvisational skills, the ability to think on my feet. It’s also given me a grounded foundation of what jobs I should look for.”
Minutes before the noon performance, Darryl is backstage, eager to start her job.
“I look forward to it everyday. Right after (the) Scarface (segment), there’s a poem that gives me enough time to dress up as Rabbit. It’s my favourite role.”
And over the summer, she has become a crowd favourite.
Darryl has developed a legion of fans, who come out regularly to see her, says actor/production manager Julie Pellissier-Lush.
“The young boys and girls love Rabbit, and Darryl goes out and interacts with them and brings them into the story.
“So when someone asks, ‘where’s Rabbit?’ people will look around and point to her in the audience where she’s high-fiving a little girl with a huge smile, and say, ‘there she is.’”
For Daryl, seeing the smiles on children’s faces is her greatest reward.
“I love my job,” she says.
At A GLANCE
What: Mi’kmaq Legends.
When and where: Monday-Saturday at the Canada Pavilion at the Celebration Zone, Charlottetown until Sept. 7. Shows are at noon and 5 p.m.
Company members: Meagan Battiste, Darryl Bernard, Dion Bernard, Riley Bernard, Jessica Francis, Julie Pellissier-Lush, Shawna MacDonald.
Backing: The project is sponsored by the Mi'kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I. and funded by Employment Development Services.